Review | Dead or Alive 6
After more than six years, the exhilarating fighting series Dead or Alive has returned with its sixth installment. It’s also the first in the current console generation. Compared to its contemporaries, DOA was always known for being fast-paced, easy to pick up, and over-the-top insane. While there have been some advancements given the time gap, some of the series’ charm seem to be running thin.
Dead or Alive 6 has a story mode like its predecessor. Each cutscene in the game is fully animated which is great to some other games in the genre that opt to use still images with occasional voiceover. Despite the presentation being up to par, the story mode itself is atrocious.
The story mode is contextualized by a grid-like map with chapters to choose from. Each chapter is comprised of a short 20-second cutscene and the occasional one-round match. While there is a chronological order to them, players can choose the order as they will. The problem is the fact that while the key storyline featuring the three ninja (Hayate, Kasumi and Ayane) is straightforward, others are not. More than often finishing a chapter with one character will unlock another, but navigating through the cumbersome menu UI proves to be tedious. Either the menu is too zoomed in to see the next playable chapter or too zoomed out to see what’s going on. Combined with the lengthy loading time between each fight and cutscenes only makes the pacing even worse.
As for the story itself, while the series is known for its ridiculous antics, there was always an underline theme to connect everything. While the key plot revolves around the experiment to bring old-school bad guy Raidou to life, other plot points don’t make much sense in the grand scheme of things. Every story path feels fragmented and even the absurd “so-bad-it’s-good” comedy doesn’t hit the mark. Perhaps the most unfortunate aspect is that the lip syncing with the English dub is perhaps some of the worst in recent memory. Lines seldom match flaps and it really takes away any immersion. DOA5’s story at least played events in a linear fashion to give the entire narrative a sense of grandeur, but DOA6 little vignettes leave a lot to be desired. Not to mention completing it doesn’t grant any rewards what so ever.
Thankfully, other modes fair better than the lackluster story. DOA Quest mode is essentially a mission mode designed to help players better understand the mechanics of the game. Each mission has 3 goals, from an easy one (to just winning a fight) to harder ones (performing a series of counters). There are over a hundred different challenges, and accomplishing tasks nets currency coins that can be used to buy costumes and accessories.
Dead or Alive 6 sticks to the classic triangle system it used for years. Strikes (punches and kicks) are good against throws, holds (counters) are good against strikes, and throws are good against holds. While the series has stuck to the traditional system for years, there are new mechanics introduced this time around. Using the newly appointed special button can initiate a fatal rush. Pressing it in succession will result in a devastating combo that can easily stun enemies. The button also helps with sidestepping. Not only pressing it with either up or down allows avoiding a straight line of attacks, but it can be linked to another attack while dodging.
The biggest addition lies within the brand new Break meter. The meter is divided into two segments, and it can be used in a couple of ways. Break holds are special counters that use one segment of the meter. Those can interrupt a rushing combo regardless of button presses, which can help turn the tables. Break blows are offensive attacks that use two segments of the meter. If they land, characters will perform a devastating cinematic attack that inflicts a lot of damage. Knowing when to use the new mechanics adds a new layer of strategy and is easily the biggest improvement to the series’ combat system ever.
Thankfully, the game’s tutorials offer a lot of guidance to both newcomers and veterans of the franchise. Not only the introductory tutorial helps understanding the new mechanics, but each character has their own command training and combo challenge. Those in particular help memorizing characters’ moves much better. In addition, even failing in a specific DOA Quest task allows a handy prompt that leads to a specific tutorial that would assist with the issue.
Learning the new mechanics and refining skills through the various tutorial modes can prove valuable while challenging others online. At launch, the online experience of Dead or Alive 6 feels rather gimped. The only option available is Ranked Matches and there are no lobbies to speak of. Hopefully Koei Tecmo will add more matchmaking options in the near future. Thankfully, the actual online experience is decent. While I have experienced some slowdowns, as long as I was playing with people with great connection, very little issues occurred. Considering how the single player content is rather limited, it’s a shame that the online component is rather lacking. Local versus is available, but lacks traditional modes like Team or Tag battles which is a huge shame.
There are also a lot of superfluous options littered throughout the menus. For one the trivia and encyclopedia options are text boxes filled with inane factoids. For one the trivia and encyclopedia options are text boxes filled with inane factoids. Those are free to unlock, but the fact they still need to be purchased proves to be sluggish and baffling. Any unlockables are given at random which makes the act of playing the game more of a nuisance as a result.
This of course leads to the subject of costumes. Unlocking new outfits, especially for the female fighters, has given a reason for many players to play extensively. While it has been a simple process in the past, now it proves to be a chore due to only parts of the garments being unlocked. For example, if an outfit has 1000 pieces of garment, players may unlock 300 of them. Not only are there many outfits, but even after collecting the required amount, players still have to buy them with the coins acquired throughout the game. It makes the act of unlocking secrets a painful grind. And that isn’t without including the outrageous $92.99 Season Pass that unlocks deluxe costumes and only a couple of characters, but that is another can of worms.
Despite the time gap, Dead or Alive 6 doesn’t look all that different than its predecessor. Character models still look as great as ever, especially the female ladies with their ample bounce physics. The most notable change is how clothes go through wear and tear throughout a fight. It’s even more rewarding after a break blow where accessories shatter upon an impact. The environments, however, seem to have taken a step back since the last game. Details are scarce, colors are far muted, and even the multi-layered stages the series is infamous for are few and far between. Sure, there is the occasional moment where knocking an opponent to a giant egg reveals an angry pterodactyl that flings them back, but compared to previous entries, the action is toned down significantly.
For the huge step forward that Dead or Alive 6 took with its gameplay, it has taken a step back in every other category. Lifeless story mode, bland stages, tedious unlocking methods and limited online interface hurts it in the grand scheme. Despite a lot of omissions, this still remains a fun fighting game to play with friends and there is hope that Koei Tecmo will add features in the near future. How much would that cost is a whole other story.
Final Score: 7 out of 10